Airline Crisis Management: When Twitter Outpaces Corporate Communications

A Qantas Airbus A380 this week suffered engine trouble on a flight from Singapore to Sydney, Australia – one of the passengers said the engine exploded with a bang and parts dropped off – and made an emergency return to the airport. No one was injured, but Qantas suffered some reputation damage with the way it responded to the incident.

The first article from Reuters said Qantas told CNBC television that one of its planes crashed near Singapore. Whether the misinformation came from Qantas or Reuters isn’t clear, but at the same time that news came out passengers were tweeting pictures of the damage from the aircraft.

Not only that, in the initial hours after the incident, a photo of wreckage found on the small Indonesian island of Batam was put up on the web at the same time that Qantas officials were telling the media that no wreckage was found there.

Eventually airline officials got their act together and released a statement on the Qantas website and its Facebook page. But its two official Twitter feeds seemingly weren’t aware of what was going on.

Thankfully the entire incident ended safely, which is clearly the most important thing. But as Kevin May, editor of Tnooz, commented, this is a strong lesson that “social media has a tendency to spiral out of control, unless a coordinated approach is carried out” and other airlines and travel companies need to learn from this incident.